Cricket: Black Caps considering four-pronged attack

By Michael Brown

New Zealand cricket coach Mike Hesson says they are now contemplating playing four seamers in the first test against England starting at Lord's on Thursday night (NZT).

It would be a departure from recent thinking. To this point, Hesson has always been keen on a balanced attack with three seamers and a specialist spinner.

However, Bruce Martin's struggles in the third test against England at Eden Park (0-130 off 65 overs) and again at Leicester in the final warmup against the England Lions (1-117 off 25 overs) might have altered that thinking.

It would see both Neil Wagner and Doug Bracewell, who appeared to be battling it out for one spot, join Tim Southee and Trent Boult in the attack and leave batsman Kane Williamson as the only spin option.

"Absolutely, that's an option,'' Hesson said. "We are not closed in our views in terms of who we play. Whoever is left out, it's going to be a tough decision but we have to pick the best side for the conditions.''

England are expected to play a spinner with Graeme Swann, who in 2010 was rated as the world's second-best bowler, having been recalled to the squad after having recovered from the elbow injury that kept him out of the series in New Zealand over the summer.

Hesson confirmed overnight Southee would be fit to play. The 24-year-old injured a toe against the Lions and was rested from lunch on the third day.

He went to London to see a specialist and receive some treatment but Hesson said it was very much a precautionary approach and Southee would play. Wagner is also fit after a toenail complaint, meaning New Zealand's four frontline bowlers will all come into consideration for selection.

The weather will also be a factor. The forecast isn't promising, with rain or showers forecast for four of the five days along with cool conditions, and preparations will have been affected by frequent showers in London over the past few weeks.

The Black Caps got a first look at the pitch overnight when they trained at Lord's but Hesson said it was too early to tell how it might play in the test.

"It looks a good wicket with a good, even covering [of grass] but it's still three days out so we are not getting too carried away,'' he said.

It is the first test between the two sides at the home of cricket since the opening test of the 2008 series, when inclement weather ruined any chance of a result.

Captain Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor and Southee are the only survivors of that match and the only three in the touring squad to play a test at Lord's, although more have played other formats of the game.

"There's certainly a huge level of excitment there _ there's no doubt about that _ but I think we are all pretty focused,'' Hesson said. "It will be a great experience regardless of the result but it will be reviewed a lot more fondly if we perform well and that's certainly been our focus.''

- APNZ

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